Nepal | June 25, 2019

Swiss brewery lands in hot water for ‘commercialising’ Birendra’s legacy

Sujan Dhungana

This image shows a bottle of beer, a product of Turbinenbräu, a craft brewer of Switzerland, with an image and name of late king Birendra of Nepal. Photo courtesy: Twitter

Kathmandu, April 27

Turbinenbräu, a craft brewer of Switzerland, has drawn the ire of the Nepali community for naming one of its products ‘Birendra’ and using the image of the late king, who had ruled Nepal between 1972 and 2001.

Apart from generating strong criticism in the social media against ‘commercialisation’ of the late king’s legacy, a few royalist groups recently staged demonstrations in front of the Embassy of Switzerland located at Ekantakuna, Lalitpur, triggering Swiss Ambassador to Nepal Elisabeth von Capeller to ask the producer to take down the advertisements from the Swiss brewery’s website.

The new beer from Turbinenbräu features an image of the king, smiling and with a glass of beer in hand.

Mohan Shrestha, spokesperson for Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-Nepal), said that using king Birendra’s picture in an alcoholic beverage product is clearly an act that undermines the legacy of the late king and the entire royal rule of Nepal.

“King Birendra is an immortal figure capturing millions of Nepalis’ hearts. Depicting him as an alcoholic beverage consumer and using his name for commercial purposes by a beverage company is highly condemnable,” said Shrestha, adding that the government should immediately stop the related Swiss company from branding its beverage product under the name of the late king.

The Nepali advertisement fraternity has also condemned the use of king Birendra’s name and picture in an alcoholic product without prior notice to the royal family and the government. “However, the Swiss government’s policy on using the name and picture of a public figure in any product or advertisement counts a lot in this issue,” said Santosh Shrestha, president of Advertising Association of Nepal (AAN).

Meanwhile, government officials have said they are gearing up to investigate whether or not the concerned Swiss brewery had taken consent while using the picture of king Birendra on its product.

“If the company had only used the name ‘Birendra’, it wouldn’t be such a big deal because the name is quite common. However, using a picture of king Birendra without acquiring the necessary consent is illegal,” informed an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, adding the government will investigate this issue.

After coming under fire, the Swiss brewery recently denied of attempting to undermine king Birendra and the royal regime of Nepal by manufacturing a product under king Birendra’s name.

“A few Nepalis thought that we were making fun of the former king of Nepal, which wasn’t the case at all,” Adrien Weber, founder and owner of Turbinenbräu, told swissinfo.ch, a Swiss news portal.

The news portal also reported Weber as saying that the Swiss ambassador told him that it is not seen well that the former king is drinking a beer, ‘but I don’t know what the connection is’.

The owner has further been quoted as saying, “There are two breweries in Nepal producing beers called Everest and Gorkha, so I find it strange they object to this.”

According to the report, the controversy surrounding the Birendra beer will have no impact on sales in Switzerland. “The fuss in Nepal has no impact here, as most people in Switzerland don’t know who Birendra is. We shall sell the whole batch within two to three months, then it is done. It is just a seasonal beer,” Weber said.

Though The Himalayan Times was unable to get a comment from the royal family members on the issue, media reports and comments on this issue by founder of Turbinenbräu, hints that the brewery has not taken the necessary consent from the concerned authorities here.


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